Did you know that we spend an average of twelve hours a day sitting? That is HALF your day! This is a necessary evil in modern life though, school, traffic, work, etc. This blog is dedicated to give you some easy tips for reducing your own neck and upper back pain and stiffness.
What causes neck and upper back stiffness? Computer work, desk work, driving, slouched sitting, watching TV, sleeping, using your mobile device … uh, basically everything you do all day long besides working out, standing, and walking. The results of all these activities: neck, shoulder, and upper back tightness and possibly pain. What can you do to get rid some of this stiffness and pain? MOVE! Now, this doesn’t mean you have to do a full workout. Tip #1 is to get up regularly and assess your posture. Keep reading for more tips! In the pictures below, I’ve demonstrated two of my favorite stretches you can do sitting at your desk, on the couch, or at a stop light to help get rid of this tightness.
Get up regularly and assess your posture.
Now that we have loosened up our muscles, next is getting our joints moving better. Joints do not have blood supply so it is crucial to get them moving; that is how they get nutrition, through compression, like a sponge, squeezing out all the metabolite and allowing for diffusion of all the minerals they need to stay healthy. The point is, if your joints are not moving they get stiff, fill with waste material, and become painful and again more stiff. It’s a vicious cycle. Attached here is a quick video on going through range of motion exercises and self mobilization for your neck and upper back to improve stiffness.
If your joints are not moving, they get stiff.
Next, let’s take a look at how you are sleeping. A lot of neck stiffness and pain can stem from the way we are sleeping, creating awkward catches and kinks. Ideally, we want our neck and spine in a neutral position while sleeping. Pillow height and density are two characteristics that as a Physical Therapist, we deal with regularly. Pillow height should be large enough to support our heads, whether you sleep on your side or back. A different pillow height may be better for you: 1) higher for side sleepers to keep your spine in alignment, 2) moderate for back sleepers, and 3) smaller for stomach sleepers. Density will affect this as well; more dense pillow for side and back sleepers, and a softer pillow for stomach sleepers. Addressing these two characteristics can work wonders for neck, upper back stiffness and pain. If you sleep on your stomach, make sure to turn to both directions equally to promote both ranges of motion and muscle length along both sides of your neck. Below are pictures of appropriate pillow heights for laying on your back, side and stomach.
That’s it folks! Hope that helps any neck and upper back stiffness that you may have been having!
As always, keep it classy San Diego!
-Dr. Nick Schroeder, PT, DPT
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